Editorial: Bounty Worth Sharing

10/26/2013 7:00 AM
By Chris Torres Regional Editor

Since when is sharing our wealth with the world a cronyistic version of capitalism? According to The Washington Post, when it involves farmers and agribusinesses.

In an op-ed article earlier this month, a member of the Post’s editorial board blasted the U.S. food aid program, calling it a “cronyistic version” of capitalism that puts hungry people at risk while benefiting farm, agribusiness and maritime interests.

Countries in many parts of the world, especially Africa, benefit greatly from U.S. food aid.

In Zimbabwe, it is estimated that 2.2 million people, or one-fourth of that country’s rural population, will need emergency food aid between October and March — dubbed the country’s “hunger season” — ahead of the next harvest season.

There are good arguments in favor of reforming U.S. food aid policy. The current food aid system requires the use of only U.S.-produced commodities and at least half of that food must travel on U.S. flagged vessels.

Moreover, there is also a “monetization” policy, which requires 15 percent of this aid to be resold in local markets with the proceeds benefiting nongovernmental organizations to fund their “development” projects.

Many people would agree that spending more time and effort teaching people in other countries how to produce more of their own food would be better than just making them dependent on others by sending them food.

There has to be an incentive for farmers in African countries to grow their own food, which is why this idea of requiring 15 percent of U.S. food aid be sold at local markets to benefit NGOs is sending the wrong message, since many think it actually puts local farmers at an economic disadvantage.

But here is something the Washington Post article, as well as many others blasting food aid policy and the farmers and agribusinesses that support it, fail to consider: America’s natural bounty of food.

This country has such an abundance of food that Americans actually waste close to half of it each year. According to an August 2012 paper from the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of U.S. food, valued at $165 billion, goes uneaten each year.

All you have to do is look at the bags of trash in the back of a restaurant to see how disturbing a problem this really is. So, if Americans can’t appreciate the bounty of our farmers, why not let others do so?

The food aid system does need to be modified to help the people it serves grow more of their own food, no doubt. But it’s safe to say that if it weren’t for American farmers, more of the world’s population would go hungry.

Many people in Zimbabwe will go hungry if they don’t receive food grown elsewhere, and it’s safe to say most of that food will be coming from the U.S.

Think about that the next time you throw a half-eaten cheeseburger in the trash can.

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